Iman Omari

It’s sort of remarkable how broad R&B has again become. Not all that long ago it was as stifled and formulaic as light jazz or contemporary pop country—just a bunch of nameless R. Kelly and Destiny’s Child clones clogging up urban radio.

But the so-called “alt-R&B” movement, which has been gathering steam since at least 2011, changed all of that. Freed from the shackles of A&R men, and spurred on by the breakthroughs of James Blake, The Weeknd, How to Dress Well and others , the once stale niche has been steadily expanding and mutating (Check our DecibelCast Vol. 19 for the bass-ier side of that spectrum).

Among those at the forefront of this expansion, is 23-year-old Iman Omari, a gifted and super prolific (releasing EPs via his Bandcamp page almost monthly these days) composer, producer/remixer and vocalist. The Los Angeleno, who has ties to Kendrick Lamar and Knxledge, actually got his start writing beats with MTV Music Generator on the original Sony Playstaion.

Omari’s take on the genre is essentially hip-hop based, but he also draws on decades of West Coast music– from cool jazz of Brubek to the shamanic acid imagery of The Doors to the squelchy sythesized funk of Parliment, all the way up to the post-millennial boom-bap of the Low End Theory collective. (The way in which he crafts his beats in particular, recalls the off-kilter wonk of Flying Lotus and the Brainfeeder camp.)

Omari’s sound is heavily atmospheric, with multi-layered ambiance created from chopping and looping vocals, synths and samples. In a manner parallel to the mainstream obsession with extensive vocal processing, Omari frequently treats both his own vocals and other instruments, with a heavy amount of effects.

But rather than autotuning, the kind of effects processing he prefers is this distinct warbling kind of thing, that creates woozy, psychedelic melodies that feel bent or wavy, kind of like the way sunlight passes through water.

From the latest “tape,” Vibe Tape +++3:

“Bars w/ Cav”

“Buildin'”

 

And some older stuff:

“Addicted [flip]”  from  Vibe Tape +++(2)

Iman Omari – “Too Late ft. MoRuf”  from (VIBE)rations LP

“Take Away feat. Good Joon”  from Energy EP

“No Stress”  from (VIBE)rations LP

“First Time”  from Energy EP

Omari recently dropped a guest spot for the radio show Soulection, playing a mix of original stuff (starting at about the 1:30:00 mark) and then stick around for an interview.

DecibelCast Vol. 18 “All Your Bass Are Belong to Us”

dB18

DecibelCast 18 was originally slated to be a compilation of bits from the nascent “alt./future” R&B scene (a particularly fertile area in 2013), but somewhere along the line, that idea was dropped. The revised version still has its share of divas and more than a few love ballads to boot, but there’s also lots of different odds and ends, mashups, remixes, bootlegs and the like. As the name (which is an obvious play on an old internet meme) might suggest the new unifying theme is the bass line. So be certain you listen to this one with a sub.

Download: All Your Bass Are Belong to Us.zip

Notorious B.I.G. x Flume – “Ezra’s Limit” (Jaymee Franchina & Jeremy Smith’s “BIG Flume” mashup)

Dam-Funk & Snoop Dogg – “Faden Away”

Kelela – “Guns & Synths”

Jessy Lanza – “5785021”

Sango feat. Atu – “Hold You”

Kelela & MΔRRI$ – “Go All Night”

SZA – “Pray”

Clams Casino x Kendrick Lamar – “Unknown bootleg”

Kilo Kash – “Ghost” (feat. Childish Gambino)

Girl Unit – “Double Team” (Hood Internet Mashup feat. Chance the Rapper)

Riff Raff – “How to Be the Man”

Cassie – “All My Love” (Kingdom Edit)

Kingdom – “Bank Head” (Extended Mix)

Tycho x Three 6 Mafia – “Who Run It” (Hudson Mohawke Edit)

Machinedrum – “Heavy Weight”

MC Tree – “Probably Nu It”

Ghost Town DJs – “My Boo” (Balam Acab Remix)

Tinashe – “Secret Weapon”

James Blake – “Life Round Here” (Chance the Rapper Version)

Jai Paul – “Untitled” (Leak)

JODY – “Echoes”

FKA Twigs – “Ultraviolet”

Iman Omari – “Energy”

Janet Jackson – “Love Scene” (Headlock’s Love Obscene Mix)